A revealing new trend in interviewing physicians, advanced practitioners, and nurses is a shift from the typical yes/no questions to those that offer more in-depth look into the candidate. Two main types of questions posed can uncover what motivates the jobseeker, where their priorities lie, and how they respond to problems that occur.
For healthcare recruiters, Insight into what drives applicants can be as important as their credentialing. Depending on the position you’re filling, their motivations, reactions, and goals can be the tipping point to a perfect match for the role and the institution.
The first interview category uses situational questions. These questions ask the candidates to respond to a hypothetical, but potentially likely, situation that may occur. These questions offer an insight into the thinking process of the job seekers as well as how they problem-solve. Valuable for many positions, healthcare recruiters likely have a ready list of ‘what if’ questions to ask candidates; in most cases, the answers are also as readily available.
A second interview category is the behavioral question. These delve deeper into the candidates for information on how they responded to a situation and ask for more details on the thought process, driving forces, and outcomes. They move past the typical “What would you do if a patient was presenting with ….” questions and look for insight into how the candidates consider and resolve issues that occur. These types of questions will likely inform on what motivates the applicants.
Some examples, and how they provide more insight, can tell you more about the professional. These sample questions cover four main topics: candidates’ Response to challenges; interaction with patients; interaction with team members; and response to institutional policies. Add more questions or customize these to suit your facility’s needs.
Discuss a time you worked well under pressure.
This is a common behavioral question, and many job seekers will anticipate being asked this. They’ll likely tell you about a time when there was a large influx of patients or something equally commonplace. Ask them to explain how they prioritized or problem-solved, what drove their decisions, and what was the outcome. From here you can learn about their thought processes, the value they put on procedure, and commitment to patients.
As you listen to the response, follow up with questions that are appropriate. Again, the candidates will likely discuss an instance that had a positive outcome – ask what they would have done if that hadn’t occurred, if the resolution hadn’t worked. You may learn they’ve personally analyzed the scenario, post-occurrence, to check their own response; or about their ability to learn, pivot, and change direction if needed in the future.
How do you present difficult or complex information to a patient or caregiver?
Another common behavioral question they’re likely to anticipate, but the response can still be quite revealing. You’ll be looking for a mix of professionalism and compassion, certainly, but also what they prioritize in the messaging. Ask them to walk you through a scenario where the patient is uncooperative, for example, refusing to take their medicine, and what lengths they’ve gone to in the past to assure a good outcome. You’ll find many healthcare professionals go the extra mile, with follow-up calls and reminders, while others throw in the towel. For some specialties, this can be acceptable – a dermatologist whose patients are willing to ride out an acne outbreak are not at as high risk as a heart patient. Gauge your evaluation of the responses accordingly, looking for the appropriate response based on need and severity.
Can you discuss a time where there was a conflict with a team member or supervisor and how you handled it?
This can be an opportunity to bad-mouth a past employer or colleagues, or a time to put a professional spin on a difficult circumstance. Obviously, you’re looking for a candidate who moves toward the latter response. Some conflicts between coworkers are easily avoidable with simple avoidance; others require healthcare professionals to move past personality and work together for the greater good. If not offered, ask how the situation began, how it evolved and what, if anything, the candidate thinks could/should have been done differently. You’ll gain insight into his/her level of self-awareness and responsibility, as well as reflection and problem-solving skills.
Have you had to conform to an institutional policy with which you did not agree? How did you manage that?
If the response is about patient care, take careful note of the response to assure the candidates align with your institution’s values and policies.
If they say that never happens, you might want to take the response with a grain of salt. It might not have been a patient-centric policy, but no one is 100% aligned with their employer. Dig deeper – they didn’t want a corner office, more PTO, or better healthcare coverage? An honest answer will likely emerge that may reveal a bit about their professional priorities.
As you listen to answers, take note of body language and gestures. Are they comfortable discussing challenges faced – considering them an opportunity to stretch and grow – or do they downplay or brush off difficult scenarios? The more insight you gain into the candidates’ thinking, the more you have to inform a great hiring decision.
Many recruitment professionals in the healthcare industry have leveraged behavioral and situational questions in their interview process for years unconsciously. Today, consider putting more weight on the behavioral responses to make the best match for any vacancy at your institution.